The April 1, 2014, election to increase Tulsa County sales tax rates to fund a new juvenile justice facility and expansion of the Tulsa County Jail (aka VisionPrison) is the topic of a forum tonight, Tuesday, March 11, 2014, hosted by TulsaNow. The forum will begin at 6, end at 7, and will be held at Foolish Things Coffee, 10th and Main in downtown Tulsa. Speakers will include Tulsa County Commissioner Karen Keith, Deputy Commissioner Mike Willis, and Sheriff Stanley Glanz. Attendees will have a chance to ask questions of the speakers. If you're wondering why Tulsa County voters aren't being given the opportunity to repurpose the Vision 2025 surplus to pay for these requests, this would be a good chance to ask.
I haven't felt much like writing this week. On Monday, I came down with the flu (although I didn't know it for sure until Wednesday), and I've been quarantined, spending most of my time hacking, coughing, sweating, and sleeping. To distract my brain from all the things I'm not getting done, I've been re-listening to a marathon of one of my all-time favorite comedy series, "Hancock's Half Hour," originally broadcast by the BBC from 1954 to 1959, and rebroadcast weekly on BBC Radio 4 Extra. And that got me poking around to see what Bill Kerr is up to these days.
Bill Kerr, born in South Africa in 1922 (his first gig was as an infant in his mother's arms), grew up in Wagga Wagga, Australia, working as a child actor, and came to fame in the 1940s and 1950s as a comedian on British radio. He is one of two surviving regular cast members of "Hancock's Half Hour." (Andrée Melly, Hancock's girlfriend in Series 2 and 3, is the other. Writers Ray Galton and Alan Simpson are also still with us.) Kerr was in every episode of the show as Hancock's best friend, and he also voiced a number of other characters, including a spot-on send-up of the character West from the movie Blackboard Jungle.
He went on to more dramatic roles in films like Gallipoli and The Year of Living Dangerously. A few years ago, he anchored the series "Animal X: Natural Mystery Unit," which aired on Animal Planet and is available on YouTube.
In this series of videos recorded by Storyteller Media in 2013, Kerr, age 91, gives dramatic recitations from memory of poetry that he learned at his mother's knee. The series includes "The Highwayman" by Alfred Noyes, "Laska" by Frank Desprez, "The Shooting of Dan McGrew" by Robert Service, "Little Orphan Annie," and "The Game of Life," a poem that compares life to a game of cards, likening the suits to love, money, war, and death. This playlist includes the five poems, a 1951 Bill Kerr monologue from Variety Bandbox, a segment from the Hancock's Half Hour episode, "East Cheam Drama Festival," in which Kerr plays an angry young man in "Look Back in Hunger," the test pilot segment from the episode "Hancock's Diary," and the Hancock spoof of "Blackboard Jungle."
MORE: 720 ABC Perth ran a radio profile of Bill Kerr in July 2013.
Today is the birthday of Tulsa County Assessor Ken Yazel, and it seems as good a time as any to salute him for his hard work on behalf of Tulsa's taxpayers these past 12 years. Ken is running for re-election to a fourth four-year term, and I encourage you to give him your full support. You can "like" his Facebook page and get updates on opportunities to volunteer for his campaign
A couple of weeks ago, at the Oklahoma Growth and Opportunity Summit, Steve Anderson, the former budget director for the State of Kansas, explained how the state went from a prospective $500 million shortfall to a $500 million surplus under the leadership of Gov. Sam Brownback, while still cutting income tax rates. One of the keys was to bring all money under the control of state agencies through the budgeting and appropriation process, including leftover money from previous years. Another important step was to eliminate many of the earmarks that siphoned off state revenue before it ever reached the budget process.
Ken Yazel, who, as County Assessor, is a member of the County Budget Board, has been fighting for those same reforms in Tulsa County. Rather than ask the citizens for more tax dollars to pay for needed projects, Yazel wants to fund those projects from money the county already receives. He wants all county money come through the budget process to be prioritized, rather than allowing each elected official to have his own pot of money outside the scrutiny of the budget system. Yazel has called for the people to decide whether to allocate surplus Vision 2025 funds (the tax will be collected through 2016) for jail and juvenile justice facilities, rather than allowing it to be spent on lower-priority projects.
What I wrote about Ken Yazel during his last run in 2010 still holds true today:
Yazel has at times been the lone voice at the County Courthouse raising concern about wasteful spending and deceptive budget numbers. He has been one of the few elected officials to speak publicly against tax hike initiatives like the River Tax.
Yazel has also defended taxpayer interests by insisting on fair property assessments for everyone, even the very wealthy. If someone builds a $25 million house, they ought to pay property taxes on the full amount; otherwise, property taxes go up for the rest of us to make up the difference. Because Ken Yazel stands up for all taxpayers, the very wealthy have made him a target. We need to stand up for him.
Ken Yazel has also been a great friend to public access to public records. Public means online, and Ken Yazel added to the county assessor website the ability to search the Tulsa County assessor property database online. You no longer have to go to the library to find out who owns a piece of property or how much it's worth. You no longer have to ask the County Commissioners permission and pay a monthly fee to access this public information. My story on where the named members of Save Our Tulsa live and the median value of their homes would not have been possible without this valuable research tool. Oklahoma County has had this sort of tool for many years, while most Tulsa County officials resisted. Yazel's leadership on this issue alone is enough to earn my heartiest endorsement.
The County Assessor's website now includes an interactive map to find information about parcels of interest. You don't have to know the address -- you just navigate through the map and click. It puts a great deal of power in the hands of ordinary homeowners or home buyers trying to figure out what a piece of property is worth, and it's available anywhere, any time, day or night.
(By contrast, you can't search the County Clerk's land transaction records without going to a library, and you can't see the image of the transaction without going to the clerk's office during working hours.)
I encourage you to get involved in Ken Yazel's re-election campaign. Your next opportunity is a volunteer day tomorrow, February 28, 2014, 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 pm, at the campaign HQ at 909 B South Lynn Lane in Broken Arrow.
An interesting article on Martin Luther, reflecting at age 57 on the heedlessness of youth -- his own, 23 years earlier:
When I approached Worms, and was not far from there, Spalatin sent a messenger to me with a warning from Friedrich the Wise, who was already there, that I should not come there and that I would be in great danger. But I answered the messenger, "If there were as many devils in Worms as chimneys on the roofs, I would nevertheless come there." Because I was not alarmed, I was not afraid. God can certainly make one so insensitive to danger. I don't know if I would be that foolish today. (table talk 5342b.)
Tim Kimberley, writing at Parchment and Pen, calls attention to the last sentence: "Knowing how mightily God used Luther in his foolish 30′s to re-awaken a world to faith by Jesus alone, Luther is not sure he would be so foolish today, as a 57 year-old man." Kimberley urges those of us who are older and wiser not to despise young foolish leaders "who really think they can face any problem and keep advancing forward," who, like Luther, are too young and foolish to keep their mouths shut. (There's more, and you should read the whole thing, particularly the vivid explanation of papal indulgences and Luther's objections to them.)
Kimberley's article reminded me of a Christian rock anthem from the 1980s, a favorite then that still often comes to mind: Randy Stonehill's "Angry Young Men."
He wants some angry young men, Ones who can't be bought, Ones who will not run from a fight, Ones who speak the truth whether it's popular or not, Ones who'd give up anything to walk in His light.
Rest assured when Jesus comes again,
He'll be looking for some angry young men.
He wants some angry young men
With fire in their eyes,
Ones who understand what Jesus gave,
Ones who have grown weary of the world and all its lies,
Ones who won't forget they've been delivered from the grave.
Rest assured when Jesus comes again,
He'll come back for some angry, angry young men.
They say if you don't laugh you cry.
I say if you don't live you die.
Well, well, the road to hell is paved with some impressive alibis,
But unless you thirst for Jesus first, heaven will pass you by.
You'll be tempted, tried and tested; there'll be wars the devil wins,
But God's love is not a license to lie there in your sins.
He understands the human heart; His mercy is complete,
But His grace was not intended as a place to wipe your feet.
Rest assured when Jesus comes again,
He'll be looking for some angry young men.
He wants some angry young men
Who love the Lord they serve,
Ones who'll do much more than make a speech,
Ones who'll act their faith out with a passion it deserves,
'Cause if we cannot live it, tell me, who are we to preach?
Rest assured when Jesus comes again,
He'll be looking for some angry young men.
Now this isn't blind, irrational anger. It's the focused anger that leads to reformation of both the world around and the self within. It's a refusal to be satisfied with mediocrity, a refusal to accept "that's just the way it is," a refusal to shut up because it might anger somebody powerful, a refusal to listen placidly to the calm recitation of lies.
As we hurtle toward civilizational ruin, we need some foolish, angry young men and women to step forward and lead if we want any hope of turning things around. In a world that values cool and caution, angry young men are mocked for their passion. They deserve our encouragement, and we need to elect more of them to public office and stand by them when their passion and drive draws the wrath of those who prefer peace at any price.
MORE: Here's Randy Stonehill and Phil Keaggy performing the song live in concert in 1989, with extended guitar and drum solos.
A tip of the hat to Sean Murphy of the Associated Press for his story about Oklahoma legislators taking junkets to Miami and Las Vegas, sponsored by FairVote, the non-profit that says it "has nurtured and supported the National Popular Vote plan" and "regularly works with advocacy leaders at the National Popular Vote organization to assist in getting to important legislation passed."
Several Oklahoma legislators accepted expenses-paid trips to Miami and Las Vegas from a group that wants to change the way the U.S. elects a president, but because the travel was sponsored by a nonprofit group, rather than traditional lobbyists, there's no requirement for the lawmakers to disclose the trips to the public.
FairVote, which wants states to allocate electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes nationally, extended invitations to legislators to attend seminars to learn more about the national popular vote proposal. Another one is set for next month in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
According to the story, State Sen. Rob Johnson ($-Yukon) went on a FairVote trip to Las Vegas last fall. Johnson was the Senate author and leading advocate of SB 906. Sen. John Sparks (D-Norman) a co-author of SB 906, and the original author of an earlier attempt to add Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, SB 841, filed in 2011, acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.
Both Johnson and Sparks say that the trips did not influence their position on the bill -- not surprising, since both were already on board with the idea, both having supported SB 841 in the previous legislature and Johnson having filed SB 906 in early 2013.
When asked whether he took any FairVote trips, State Rep. Don Armes ($-Faxon), the House author of SB 906 and the earlier NPV bill, told the AP, "I'm not ready to talk about all of that."
[We'll take that as a "yes."]
Johnson rejects the term "junket":
"To me it's a good way to actually sit down and discuss issues uninterrupted away from the Capitol building," said state Sen. Rob Johnson, R-Yukon, the Senate author of the bill. "I understand some people's concerns, but they're not junkets. We're there to work. We sat there the entire time and discussed the issue."
[BatesLine readers are invited to recommend places to Sen. Johnson in his district or elsewhere in the State of Oklahoma where issues can be discussed uninterrupted away from the Capitol building. BatesLine would humbly suggest that committee hearings are the appropriate place for substantive policy discussions, so that the public can hear the same information being presented to their elected representatives.]
State Rep. Tom Newell (R-Seminole), an opponent of NPV, also acknowledges going on a FairVote trip to Miami.
Oklahoma Ethics Commission director Lee Slater confirmed for the AP what we suspected here on BatesLine, that these trips don't come under Oklahoma's ethics reporting laws:
Because the trips were not funded by lobbyists or the companies that employ them, there is no requirement that the lawmakers disclose the travel and lodging, said Lee Slater, executive director of the Oklahoma Ethics Commission.
State Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie), who does not accept any gifts from lobbyists, called for the loophole to be closed and for legislators to be required to disclose travel expenses paid on a legislator's behalf or reimbursed.
MORE: OCPA distinguished fellow Andrew Spiropoulos says it's time to kill the National Popular Vote idea for good:
You would think that requiring Oklahoma to cast all of its electoral votes for a candidate who lost every county twice would be enough to kill the proposal. Why would anyone propose such an absurd thing?...
One of the supporters of this scheme commented that even a 12-year-old understands the idea of democracy behind this proposal. I agree. Only someone with an immature and historically uninformed understanding of democracy would support this idea. The rest of us, however, know that our Founding Fathers understood we are not a monolithic nation of atomized individuals, but a union of diverse communities. To be both an effective and legitimate leader, a president must be elected, not by a simple majority (or, worse yet, plurality) of individuals, but by a majority of the nation's communities, encompassed by the states.
Spiropoulos concludes: "You would think that the first principle of any conservative legislator would be to actually conserve our institutions."
And if you're wondering what the Left thinks of SB 906, ThinkProgress headlined their story on the Senate's vote: "Oklahoma Senate Endorses Plan To Effectively Abolish The Electoral College."
David Van Risseghem, a long-time Republican activist in Tulsa, has set up a newspaper-style webpage, SoonerPolitics.org, which aggregates the headlines from many of Oklahoma's political blogs and news websites. I'm honored to be included. It's a great way to see all the latest blog entries at a glance.
Several Republican Oklahoma legislators have confirmed to BatesLine that they or their colleagues have been invited to all-expenses-paid "seminars" sponsored by National Popular Vote advocates and held in exotic, warm-weather locations. The legislators have mentioned locations including Scottsdale, Arizona, south Florida, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, and St. Croix in the U. S. Virgin Islands. State Rep. Jason Murphey, R-Guthrie, has confirmed the latter destination in his latest blog entry, "Spiking the Electoral College with a Free Trip to St. Croix."
One legislator told me about receiving verbal information about the Scottsdale event from Michelle Sutton, a lobbyist at the state capitol who is registered as a representative of National Popular Vote. (Sutton's firm is CRG LLC, and her lobbyist number is L140338.) According to the legislator, the verbal info was followed by an invitation attached to an email from Saul Anuzis, a consultant to the National Popular Vote campaign.
The written invitation comes from FairVote, aka The Center for Voting and Democracy, a 501(c)(3). According to their website (fairvote.org/reforms/national-popular-vote/), FairVote "has nurtured and supported the National Popular Vote plan... Fairvote regularly works with advocacy leaders at the National Popular Vote organization to assist in getting to important legislation passed."
The invitation from FairVote's executive director is to an "all-expenses-paid, invitation-only panel discussion and educational seminar on presidential elections and the Electoral College" at an expensive resort hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.
February 7, 2014
This is Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote. FairVote is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that researches elections and election law. We are based in Maryland.
I am writing to invite you to participate in an all-expenses-paid, invitation-only panel discussion and educational seminar on presidential elections and the Electoral College, to take place near Phoenix (AZ) on March 1st. We will address three major reform proposals: allocation of electoral votes proportionally and by congressional district and, as the major focus given its enactment in 10 states, the National Popular Vote interstate compact. More and more Americans are concerned about the impact of Electoral College rules, and more states are taking action or considering action to reform their current system. Although the 2016 presidential election may seem distant, it in fact is an ideal time to analyze prospective changes now, rather than closer to the election.
We have sponsored and participated in a number of these roundtables over the years, and have found them an excellent way to delve deeply into this topic. All of us have experienced presidential elections and formed opinions about proposals for reform, but we have found it useful to reexamine assumptions and look at different ideas afresh Doing so has been all the easier and more productive when legislators and civic leaders from a mix of states can convene and have the time to go over these issues. We have developed a six-hour format for such discussions that has worked particularly well with groups of 10 to 15 participants.
We are planning our next roundtable for up to 15 people in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 28th-March 2nd. To allow people to attend from a mix of states, we can cover your costs associated with travel and accommodation at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn® Scottsdale Resort, located outside Phoenix at 5402 East Lincoln Drive in Scottsdale. We can cover guests' accommodations covered for up to three nights, February 28th - March 2nd. (Family members can join attendees, but their travel costs will not be reimbursed.) We also reimburse meals for participants on the evening of February 28th, lunch on March 1st, and breakfast vouchers for each night of your stay. We request that all participants commit to reviewing a collection of reading materials that will be provided by email before the meeting so that all participants can ready to share their insights and questions in panel sessions on March 1st and have the same background information going into the discussion.
If you have any questions about this invitation, please let me know by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (cell is 240-393-2420). Because we plan to finalize our list of participants by February 14, I would appreciate hearing from you by February 11th as to whether you can attend our seminar.
As of this writing, the least expensive room at the JW Marriott Camelback Inn Scottsdale Resort for those dates was $509 / night, not including the daily $25 resort fee, and any state and local sales and lodging taxes. Add in three vouchers for breakfast at the resort plus reimbursement for a dinner and a lunch, and the cost of air transportation, and you have a nice little weekend getaway for over $2,000, interrupted by the political equivalent of a timeshare presentation, which, I suspect, is filled with the same sort of emotional manipulation and selective disclosure for which timeshare presentations are notorious.
Note that the attendees are to include "legislators and civic leaders from a mix of states." That indicates that Oklahoma isn't the only target of this left-wing push to overthrow our presidential election system. It's reasonable to imagine that an Oklahoma Republican attending this event would be grouped with Republican legislators from other states. The "civic leaders" in the group would be already on board with NPV and able to could guide the discussion in a way that would be persuasive to the GOP lawmakers.
As State Rep. Jason Murphey notes, while several states have approved NPV, the NPV campaign can't reach the target of 270 without some Republican-controlled states jumping on the bandwagon:
Here's the problem for these groups: the Washington Post recently opined that if this effort were to be successful, "they'll likely have to branch out into red states, because there are only so many blue states (and so many electoral votes in them) on the map."
How could the national popular vote people convince the more sparsely populated red staters to give away their advantage in the Electoral College?
What better way than to put Oklahoma on the list with the liberal states? If the reddest state in the nation signs on, then why wouldn't other red states?
To this end, the national popular vote group invaded Oklahoma with a high powered team of very sophisticated lobbyists. They wisely kept the issue under the radar and away from the eyes of the public while aggressively trying to convince legislators by using a series of convoluted logic for why this proposal would benefit conservatives.
They financed a series of out-of-state junkets to various vacation sites where they explained this logic against an exotic backdrop of recreational events.
Having succeeded in the Senate, they are preparing to go on the offensive in the House. On March 20, they will finance an all-expenses-paid junket to St. Croix. In this exotic venue, far away from the eyes of the public, they will attempt to convince Oklahoma House members to vote for the bill. Just a few days after they return to the mainland, House members will vote on the proposal.
You may wonder, as I do: How is it possible for a legislator to accept a trip worth thousands of dollars, paid for by an organization with an interest in legislation, and not violate our ethics laws? I suspect that the loophole is that the organization is a 501(c)(3) and the "seminar" is framed in the invitation as a neutral exploration of the issue rather than advocacy. There ought to be a law requiring prompt disclosure of these trips.
And if there's not a law already, Oklahoma legislators should take the initiative to disclose out-of-state trips where public policy is discussed, particularly if their expenses are paid or reimbursed. Oklahoma voters deserve to know what influences are shaping their legislators' decisions. Any legislator unwilling to make such a disclosure before the end of March ought to have a primary challenger.
Two more Republican state senators who voted for SB 906, the bill that would have Oklahoma award its seven electoral votes to the winner of the National Popular Vote, have announced their regret and the withdrawal of their support for the idea, joining an earlier announcement from Sen. Gary Stanislawski.
Grace McMillan, executive assistant to Sen. Mark Allen, contacted me via email in response to my questions:
Senator Allen wanted me to respond to you and let you know that he is changing his position on SB 906. He is now better informed -- formerly he had relied on someone else's information.
He no longer supports the measure, and will so inform members of the
House of Representatives before the bill comes to a vote there.
Sen. Josh Brecheen has supplied a lengthy statement to Jamison Faught's Muskogee Politico blog, calling the SB 906 decision, "a vote I regret." In the statement, he explains that, while he had several interactions with friends who supported the bill, and on that basis pledged to support the measure, he never sought out the views of those opposed.
A day later, I listened on the floor to some opposing concerns I had not heard before and I was greatly alarmed that I had agreed to vote for it when certain responses were provided. I was not misled by those who were supportive, but given this issue's complexities, it had just never come up. I cast a vote for the bill as I had agreed to do so and given my belief in the biblical concept "a man keeps his word even when it hurts."
Brecheen's reference is to Psalm 15:4, which says that a man "who swears to his own hurt and does not change" is among those who will "dwell upon God's holy hill."
(It could be argued that a state senator's oath before God to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Oklahoma constitutes a promise to his constituents that should take precedence over any promise to a colleague.)
Oklahoma State Senator Gary Stanislawski (R-Tulsa) has issued a statement recanting his support for SB 906, and expressing regret for his vote for the bill that would add Oklahoma to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.
The last several years I have always been against the National Popular Vote. This year though two people from the National Popular Vote group visited me and provided me with some information that I had not previously considered. Primarily that because we are a "fly over" state that we do not have a voice in setting national policy. It seems that a lot of national policies are being set by swing states. For instance, we have Ethanol because the farmers in Iowa wanted it. We have Part D Medicare because of the seniors in Florida. There are steel tariffs because of the steel mills in Pennsylvania. In addition, when I arrived at my desk on the Senate floor before the vote the attached letter from Newt Gingrich was there which just confirmed our situation. Out of frustration and anger that our nation is being controlled by only a handful of states I decided to vote for the NPV.
The next day I had a phone call from a friend who questioned my vote, and as we discussed it I realized that voting for the NPV is really giving up our state sovereignty to a group of states and could very well mean that the majority of Oklahoman's recorded vote could go for the opposite candidate. While I knew that the previous day I was just too frustrated in the way Washington really works and just desperately wanted to see a change. The other thing my friend brought up that I had not considered before was the risk of voter fraud in other states. That unregistered or even deceased people could be cancelling out votes from within Oklahoma. That is when I knew I had made a serious error in judgment.
I sincerely apologize for my mistake and can only hope that the bill is defeated in the House. I will try to not be influenced by my emotions in the future, but I will admit that I am still human.
It's tough to admit you made a mistake, and I commend Sen. Stanislawski for making this statement. The other 15 Republicans who voted for SB 906 would be wise to follow suit.
But there's another step that needs to be taken. This bill passed because it was rushed to a vote. It was the only bill to come before the Senate that day for passage. (Here is the Senate Journal for February 12, 2014.) Sen. Rob Johnson's unanimous consent request to suspend Rule 12-4 was granted, allowing a floor amendment to restore the title to the bill. If the rules had not been suspended, if just one senator had objected to the unanimous consent request, the vote would have been delayed to the following day, and there would have been time for the grassroots to know the vote was happening and to remind senators why this is a bad idea.
A conservative's instinct ought to be to conserve America's constitutional arrangements. When presented with a bill to turn change some fundamental aspect of our system of government -- how we elect a president -- a conservative ought either to dismiss it out of hand or at least slow the process down long enough to consult constituents and seek out the other side of the argument. Chesterton's rule of fences and gates ought to apply. And the fact that someone was willing to hire lobbyists to push this ought to have set off alarm bells loud enough to wake the dead. You can understand a regulated company thinking it worth the cost of lobbying for or against legislation that affects their bottom line. But who stands to gain financially if this bill passes? George Soros, maybe?
When I told my two older children, separately, about the National Popular Vote concept, I got about two sentences into the explanation before each exploded with incredulity. We had never discussed the idea before, but they instantly recognized that it would violate the principle of federalism and would be to Oklahoma's disadvantage.
A mistake is forgivable, but when the consequences are this grave, the cause of the mistake needs to be analyzed and corrective action taken to keep it from happening again.
MORE: Lori L. Hendricks has a different view of Sen. Stanislawski's change of heart:
@BatesLine Stanislawski was called before the vote on 906. His recant is due to outcry not remorse.— Lori Hendricks (@LoriLHendricks) February 16, 2014
Hendricks, a Republican, serves as Wagoner County Clerk. She spoke to KFAQ the morning after SB 906 passed the Senate.
And Chris Medlock, a Stanislawski constituent who supported his election, isn't soothed by Stansilawski's mea culpa:
Let's see. He admitted that he made a decision based on emotions, rather than reason. He admitted that he held no principle, one way or the other, on the issue, because he was so easily influenced by lobbyists. Either way, I'm still deeply concerned.
As a constituent of Gary's who helped get him elected, I can not promise that when and if a primary occurs in this district, I can give him my support.
I have NEVER had one of my elected representatives cast a vote that so angered me. I was actually screaming, "What was he thinking?"
I thought my wife was going to get a hose out.
MORE conservative voices against NPV:
Morton Blackwell, founder of the Leadership Institute and long-time Republican National Committeeman from Virginia, writing in June 2011. Based on the 2008 results, Blackwell calculated that Oklahoma's influence on the national result would have been cut by over 14% under NPV:
State legislators should consider carefully the disruption NPV would bring to the electoral college system, which was a part of the grand compromise enacted at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to protect states' rights and balance the power of the small states against the larger states.
In many ways, the constitutional separation of powers between the states and the federal government is being eroded. The Founders never intended that the states should become merely administrative appendages of the federal government, much less that the United States become a unitary, centralized, plebiscitary democracy. NPV would push America along that dangerous and originally unintended path.
Beyond preserving federalism, there are other powerful reasons to oppose the NPV plan...
For example, NPV would greatly incentivize vote-stealing because big-city political machines would realize that massive numbers of fraudulent votes they could engender could swing the electoral votes beyond their states and be counted toward a national popular vote plurality victory for their presidential candidate.
The plan to change this system is called the National Popular Vote. It obviously has a lot of money behind it because it is sending highly paid lobbyists around the country to persuade state legislatures to adopt the NPV plan.
NPV is an attempt to achieve the longtime liberal goal of getting rid of the Electoral College. Instead of proposing an amendment that would first need to be passed by Congress and then ratified by three-fourths of the states (38), NPV is a scheme to deviously bypass the grand design of our U.S. Constitution....
The NPV campaign lets people believe that NPV will elect presidents who win the majority of popular votes, but that is false. Because of third parties, we've had many elections (including three of the last five) when no presidential candidate received a popular-vote majority. Abraham Lincoln won with less than 40 percent of the popular vote, and only by our Electoral College system was he elected president....
It's a mystery how any Republican could support NPV, and it's no surprise that the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to oppose NPV because members saw it as unconstitutional and unworkable.
Remember our national trauma as we suffered through recounts in Florida where the margin between Bush and Gore was only about 500 votes? If the election is based on the national popular vote and it's close, NPV would induce recounts in many or most of the 50 states.
Mexico uses a national popular vote system, and it's a good illustration of why we don't want it here. In Mexico's last presidential election, the candidate with the "most votes" received 35.89 percent, while his closest rival got 35.31 percent -- a margin of just one-half of one percent. In the months that followed, Mexico was on the verge of civil war as the runner-up held mass rallies attracting millions of his angry supporters.
People who pretend that the Electoral College system is undemocratic are not only ignorant of the history and purposes of the U.S. Constitution, but they probably don't even understand baseball. Basing the election on a plurality of the popular vote while ignoring the states would be like the New York Yankees claiming they won the 1960 World Series because they outscored the Pirates in runs 55-27 and in hits 91-60. Yet, the Pirates fairly won that World Series, 4 games to 3, and no one challenges their victory.
John Ryder, Republican National Committeeman from Tennessee, writing about National Popular Vote in June 2011:
On a practical level, the Constitution requires a successful candidate to assemble a winning coalition across a broad geographic spectrum, embracing both large and small states, rather than a narrow concentration of votes.
A popular vote, in contrast, does not require the candidate to have broad appeal. It would make it possible for a candidate to win without any majority but merely a plurality of the popular vote. The compact would require the states to determine the candidate with the "largest national popular vote" - not a majority. Thus, in a multicandidate race, the "largest national popular vote" could be obtained by a regional candidate with just 35 percent or 40 percent of the popular vote.
Under such an arrangement, presidential candidates would have no incentive to campaign anywhere except the major media markets in a few states. The country would, in essence, cede our presidential elections to the largest metropolitan areas, whose concerns are different from those of other areas of the country.
NPV would maximize the rewards of vote fraud in those large metropolitan areas. Under the Electoral College, an illegal vote only affects the outcome in one state; under the popular vote compact, an illegal vote would affect the national outcome.
On the other side of the aisle, leftist blogger Kevin Drum thinks NPV is an excellent idea, referring to it as "a system even less favorable to [Republicans] than the current Electoral College."
The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.
If you thought you could relax because the Republicans are in charge at the State Capitol and Oklahoma Republicans have a conservative party platform, remember that there are lobbyists giving our friends at the Capitol one side of the story. We in the grassroots have to watch every bill and every vote. We have to be in our legislators' faces as much as the lobbyists are.
On Wednesday, the National Popular Vote bill (SB 906) passed the State Senate by a vote of 28-18. All 18 nay votes were Republicans, but another 16 voted with all 12 Democrats in favor of the bill.
The NPV bill, if it is passed by the House and signed by Gov. Fallin, would add Oklahoma to the list of states promising to award all of our electoral votes to the winner of the largest share of the national popular vote, rather than the winner of the popular vote in Oklahoma. Under the terms of the compact, once states with an aggregate of 270 electoral votes approve the compact, it will go into effect and the winner of the national popular vote will be guaranteed enough electoral votes to win the presidency.
I'm told that Saul Anuzis, a consultant for the NPV movement and the former Republican State Chairman in Michigan, was working the corridors for the bill. According to news reports, Anuzis got flack for using the official RNC logo on a letter backing NPV because it hinted that the RNC supported his efforts. Anuzis lost re-election as Michigan's Republican National Committeeman in 2012, and his support for NPV is credited as a major factor in his defeat. Saul Anuzis and his colleagues persuaded some of our friends in the Senate that NPV could improve the Republican Party's chances. Never mind that the NPV movement is funded and run by leftists who are hardly likely to back an idea that would help conservatives win the White House.
Grassroots conservatives know, but our friends in the Senate forgot, that a National Popular Vote would allow the votes of Chicago cemetery inhabitants to cancel the votes of conservative Oklahomans. A presidential election under our current system is essentially 51 separate elections*, and that acts as a firewall against the impact of voter fraud. Under the current system, voter fraud in Chicago, for example, could only run up the score in Illinois; it couldn't undermine results in other states.
Our friends in the Senate forgot that the National Popular Vote creates an incentive for voting in multiple states in the same election.
Our friends in the Senate forgot that the National Popular Vote undermines the fundamental constitutional principle that the United States is a Union of States. They forgot that NPV and eliminating the electoral college has been a dream of the Left for decades. Getting Oklahoma on board -- the reddest state in the nation, the state where all 77 counties voted for the Republican nominee in 2004, 2008, and 2012 -- will make it easier for the NPV lobbyists to convince other Republican-dominated states to go along. Oklahoma would be the first "red state" to approve NPV.
Our friends in the Senate forgot the conservative Oklahoma voices -- people they know and trust! -- who have been warning them for years about this plan, its constitutional and practical flaws, the danger it poses to the integrity of our election system. Steve Fair, Oklahoma's respected Republican National Committeeman, has been writing against NPV since at least 2011. The Oklahoma Republican Party platform, written by party grassroots activists from across the state and approved by the state convention, has been on record against NPV since at least 2011, renewing their opposition in the most recent platform in 2013. Fellows of the Oklahoma Council for Public Affairs (OCPA) have been writing against NPV for years. I wrote a fairly scathing article about the NPV bill filed in 2013.
Our friends in the Senate forgot the conservative voices beyond Oklahoma warning of the dangers of NPV. In 2004 the Heritage Foundation laid out the advantages of the Electoral College for stable government:
Presidential candidates must build a national base among the states before they can be elected. They cannot target any one interest group or regional minority. Instead, they must achieve a consensus among enough groups, spread out over many states, to create a broad-based following among the voters. Any other course of action will prevent a candidate from gaining the strong base needed to win the election.
In 2006, Pete du Pont, former Republican governor of Delaware and a brilliant public policy analyst, made the case in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that the National Popular Vote would focus presidential campaigns on the major urban agglomerations on the coasts, to the detriment of Oklahoma and the rest of Flyover Country. He pointed out the likelihood of multi-candidate races, "winners" with tiny minorities of the vote, and no provision for a runoff. He reminded that a race as close as a half-million votes (barely three per precinct) could trigger a nationwide recount 50 times as chaotic as Florida in 2000.
Second, in any direct national election there would be significant election-fraud concerns. In the 2000 Bush-Gore race, Mr. Gore's 540,000-vote margin amounted to 3.1 votes in each of the country's 175,000 precincts. "Finding" three votes per precinct in urban areas is not a difficult thing, or as former presidential scholar and Kennedy advisor Theodore White testified before the Congress in 1970, "There is an almost unprecedented chaos that comes in the system where the change of one or two votes per precinct can switch the national election of the United States."
Washington state's 2004 governor's race was decided by just 129 votes. A judge found 1,678 illegal votes were cast, and it turned out that 1,200 more votes were counted in Seattle's King County than the number of people recorded as voting. This affected just Washington state, but in a direct national election where everything hangs on a small number of urban districts, such manipulations could easily decide presidencies.
The Cato Institute published a policy analysis of NPV in 2008:
The proposal eliminates states as electoral districts in presidential elections by creating a national electoral district for the presidential election, thereby advancing a national political identity for the United States. States with small populations and states that are competitive may benefit from the electoral college. Few states clearly benefit from direct election of the president. NPV brings about this change without amending the Constitution, thereby undermining the legitimacy of presidential elections. It also weakens federalism by eliminating the role of the states in presidential contests. NPV nationalizes disputed outcomes and cannot offer any certainty that states will not withdraw from the compact when the results of an election become known. NPV will encourage presidential campaigns to focus their efforts in dense media markets where costs per vote are lowest; many states now ignored by candidates will continue to be ignored under NPV. For these reasons, states should not join the National Popular Vote compact.
And one more thing: Isn't there something fundamentally wrong about having an institution enshrined in our constitution, but then using legislation to bypass it and render it as a dead letter?
If you're unhappy with the state senators who supported SB 906, please contact them politely, ask why they voted the way they did, explain the problems with National Popular Vote, and ask them to issue a statement retracting their vote. The Senate vote is a done deal, but statements of regret could influence the House in the right direction. Click the link to see how your senator voted.
Next Friday, February 21, 2014, State Senate President Pro Tempore Brian Bingman will speak at the Tulsa Republican Club's monthly luncheon at the Summit Club on the 30th floor of the Bank of America Building, 15 W. 6th Street in downtown Tulsa. (Buffet lunch is $20; validated parking available in the building's garage.) Bingman voted for the National Popular Vote bill; as head of the Senate, he had the power to stop it. This might be a good opportunity to talk (politely!) with him about his vote.
I'm puzzled and distressed. What kind of political force would induce this decision on the part of so many Republican state senators? How could they forget what their political allies have been saying in opposition to NPV and instead listen to an out-of-state lobbyist? There aren't any grassroots conservatives agitating for this measure. Why are our legislators treating this as a priority?
Some are suggesting that we need a recall provision in our State Constitution. Term-limited legislators may see potential future employers as the constituency they need to please, rather than the voters who elected them. Or perhaps we could have stronger laws against the revolving door: If you become a lobbyist, you (and anyone married to you) would forfeit your state pension.
MORE: In August 2011, Steve Fair asked and answered Who are the people behind the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)?:
The Chairman is Dr. John R. Koza, the inventor of the scratch off lottery ticket, and twice a Democrat elector in California. Dr. Kova is a good friend of Al Gore, who won the popular vote in 2000 but lost the electoral vote count to George W. Bush.
Barry Faden, a Democrat, is the President of NPVIC. He is a San Francisco attorney who supported John Kerry in 2004. He contributed $2,000 to Kerry according to campaignmoney.com.
Board members for NPVIC are Tom Golisano, the owner of Paychex, an HR company for small business and the owner of the NHL's Buffalo Sabers. In 2008, Golisano, a registered Independent in New York state, gave one million dollars to the Democrats for their national convention. Chris Pearson is State Representative in Vermont. He is a member of the Progressive Party, one of only 6 in the 150 member body. Stephen Siberstein is a California Democrat who contributed $250,000 to the Center for American Progress, a left wing think tank.
*Actually 56 separate elections, taking into account the allocation of electoral votes by congressional district in Nebraska and Maine.